Family & Divorce

How Real Estate Agents Can Avoid Property Settlement Conflicts

TGB Accredited Family Law Specialist Wendy Barry has tips for real estate agents to avoid the separation and divorce cross fire.

TGB Accredited Family Law Specialist Wendy Barry has tips for real estate agents to avoid the separation and divorce cross fire.

When a couple separates the process of dividing the property of the relationship usually follows.

In most cases the property includes a home and it is often the largest asset available for division.  Understandably it can become hotly contested as to who will retain the home or indeed if either party is able to finance a buy-out of the other party’s share.

Often the parties (either jointly or independently) will enlist the services of a real estate agent to provide an appraisal of the home so that a buy-out price can be agreed – this is the first area where a real estate agent may unwittingly be drawn into the argy-bargy of a separating couple.

In the circumstances of a buy-out the party wishing to retain the home has a vested interest in keeping the value of the home as low as possible, while the other party wishes to receive as much as possible for their share.

In the more amicable of separations the parties may be able to agree on a price on a single appraisal.  However in the more acrimonious of matters, where either negotiations with lawyers or court proceedings are underway, multiple appraisals are required and an aggregate of the appraisals will provide the basis for a buy-out price.

Where the parties are unable to agree the value of the home on the basis of either a single or aggregate appraisal, a jointly obtained valuation from a single expert licensed valuer is required.

Another area where a real estate agent can get caught up in the hostilities is in the sale process. For example, where the home is listed for sale, a reasonable offer to purchase the home is received and one person wishes to accept the offer and the other may be stubbornly refusing to accept it.  The agent is caught in a position of working for a client with competing interests.  It is not uncommon for the individual who wishes to accept the offer to seek evidence from the real estate agent of the other’s behaviour.  This presents a tricky situation for an agent who is acting for both parties.

For the most part there is little the real estate agent can do except draw on their people management skills and work through the conflict as best he or she can.  However some tips that may help the real estate agent survive the crossfire include :

1. Do your best to remain impartial

2. Give realistic expectations to the client so that when offers materialise there can be less of a surprise if the offer is lower than one or other of the parties may have expected

3. Document and keep records of all aspects of the sale

4. When the parties are represented and a difficulty arises, refer them back to their lawyers to avoid having to become the adjudicator of the squabbles (which may ultimately see you having to act against one party who is your client).

For further information or assistance with your legal matter contact your nearest TGB office.